The Downward Spiral: Macbeth’s Internal Deterioration Essay, Research Paper
“Your own soul is destroyed when you are cruel”(King Solomon). Macbeth destroyed his soul over the course of William Shakespeare‘s “Macbeth” through his presumptuous ambitions and he murders he committed in order to become and remain king of Scotland. His downfall can be seen through Macbeth‘s actions, his statements, physical descriptions of Macbeth, and other character‘s statements. Macbeth‘s internal deterioration is seen in three distinct stages: the desire to become king, the murders of Duncan and Banquo, and Macbeth‘s acceptance of the fact that all of his actions have led him nowhere.
The play begins with Macbeth being praised and honored for his valiant efforts in the military. The Captain calls him“brave Macbeth” because he has slain the evil Macdonwald. Macbeth receives the title Thane of Cawdor for his accomplishment. Later, the three witches predict that Macbeth will become King. Lady Macbeth receives word of the prediction and develops a plan to kill Duncan. However, she is fearful that Macbeth, who is “full o‘ th‘ milk of human kindness”, will not support her and the plan. This statement reveals Macbeth‘s sweet nature and his affection for all people. It is this characteristic that Lady Macbeth fears will prevent him from becoming King. After Macbeth has agreed to complete Lady Macbeth‘s plan, he begins to have doubts. He develops reasons as to why he should not kill Duncan. He contemplates that he is Duncan‘s:
kinsman as well as subject,
Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,
Who should against his murderer shut the door,
Not bear the knife [himself].
Act I, Scene 7, Lns. 14-16
Through this soliloquy, Macbeth reveals that he is hesitant to kill Duncan and that it is not in his nature to impose harm to others.
The deterioration of Macbeth‘s conscious begins with the murder of Duncan. Through his actions, he begins to torment his mind. The murder of Duncan and the greed and paranoia that he gains from becoming King, lead him to murder Banquo and attempt to murder Fleance in an attempt to prevent them from seizing the throne. His mental decimation is seen when he believes that he is seeing the ghost of Banquo at the banquet. Ross describes Macbeth‘s mental and physical condition when he comments to the other people who are present at the Banquet that “his highness is not well.” Macbeth‘s further ruination can be seen when he describes his own condition to Lady Macbeth:
I am in blood
Stepped in so far that, should i wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o‘er.
Strange things that I have in head that will to hand. . .
Act III, Scene 4, Lns. 136-139
Through this declaration, Macbeth describes his realization that there is no way to recall what he has done and the mental problems that he his having as a result of the murders.
The final stage of Macbeth‘s downfall centers around Macbeth‘s admittance that his actions have led him down a path of ruin and devastation. Macbeth comments that “all [his] yesterdays have lighted fools/The way to dusty death.” Through these lines he asseverates that his mistakes – killing Duncan and Banquo- have ruined his life and are leading to a dirty, despicable death. He continues by saying, “ Life‘s but a walking shadow, a poor player/That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/And then is heard no more.” These words are Macbeth‘s personal confession that his life no longer has meaning and purpose. The “brave” Macbeth has now become a “coward” and a “tyrant”.
According to Ann Landers, “ Hate is an acid. It can damage the vessel in which it is stored as well as the object on which it is poured.” Hate not only destroyed the lives of Duncan and Banquo, but the inner being of Macbeth. The metal deterioration of Macbeth is seen through his own comments, Macbeth‘s actions, descriptions of Macbeth, and the comments of other characters. Because of the jealousy, fear, guilt, and hatred that Macbeth experienced, he transformed from a kind, honorable man into an insane, vicious monster.